Super Smash Bros.
  • Genre:
    • Fighting
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo 64
  • Developer:
    • HAL
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 01/21/1999
    • US 04/26/1999
    • UK 11/19/1999
Score: 85%

This review was published on 11/21/2015.

Super Smash Bros. is a fighting video game developed by HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo 64. It was originally released in Japan on January 21, 1999, North America on April 26, 1999, and Europe on November 19, 1999. The story goes that Masahiro Sakurai, the creator of Kirby, expressed interest in creating a four player fighting game. During the planning stages, the initial concept of the game featured nondescript characters and was called Dragon King: The Fighting Game. After putting together a presentation, Sakurai showed the concept to Satoru Iwata, who was a fellow co-worker at the time, and they soon began working on it together. Sakurai felt that, in order for his game to sell well, he'd have to find a way to make it original. He came up with the idea of having iconic Nintendo characters fight each other, but worried he wouldn't get approval from Nintendo, so he kept it secret until a prototype was ready. The prototype had Mario, Donkey Kong, Samus, and Fox as playable fighters, and was a resounding success, as Nintendo approved the idea. Today, Smash Bros. is one of the best local multiplayer experiences out there. This is the first game in the series, though, so it's a little barebones.

Image

This is one of the first crossover fighting games ever made. It includes an all-star cast of characters from many of Nintendo's most successful franchises, like Mario and Luigi from the Super Mario Bros. series, Yoshi from Yoshi's Island, Kirby from Kirby's Dream Land, Donkey Kong from Donkey Kong Country, Link from The Legend of Zelda, Samus Aran from Metroid, Fox from Star Fox, and even Pikachu and Jigglypuff from Pokemon. Some lesser known characters are also in the game, like Ness from EarthBound and Captain Falcon from F-Zero, both of whom are unlockable fighters. Many of the moves the characters have are inspired by what they actually do in their games, like how Pikachu has electrifying attacks, or how Kirby can eat other combatants to copy their abilities. Items and stages from the games those characters come from are also here, further adding to the crossover feel. Basically, this game is the ultimate form of fan service, enabling fans to fulfill their wildest dreams. If you ever wondered who would win in a fight between any of these characters, well, now you can find out. The playable cast is quite small when compared to future Smash games, though.

Image

If you hate having to input long, hard-to-execute button combinations to perform moves, then this is the fighting game for you. There are two basic types of attacks: normal attacks and special attacks. Normal attacks are all done with the A button and special attacks are done with the B button. Holding a direction on the analog stick while pressing a button will result in different attacks. When airborne, fighters will have access to a different set of normal attacks, but special attacks remain the same. Generally, normal attacks involve short ranged moves like punches and kicks, whereas specials will sometimes consist of projectiles like Mario's fireballs. In addition to all of that, all fighters can form a protective barrier around themselves to block attacks, grab and throw opponents, and perform two or more jumps, and all of this can be done in a single button press. This removes the technical hurdle behind executing moves, letting players focus squarely on the actual combat. The highly simplified controls result in an extremely low learning curve, allowing players of all skill levels to dive right into the game and start playing it immediately.

Image

The most innovative aspect of the controls is the ability to perform a powered up version of a normal attack known as a smash attack. To do this, one must quickly flick the analog stick in a direction and press the A button at the same time. Smash attacks do far greater damage and have far more knockback than regular attacks, but they're slower and can only be done while on the ground, so you leave yourself wide open when doing one. Also, if you flick the control stick without pressing any buttons, your character will run at a faster pace, and doing a normal attack while running results in a dash attack. All of this is very intuitive, as flicking the control stick feels like a natural motion that's at home in a fast paced fighting game. This is also brilliantly inventive, because it almost doubles the amount of moves you have access to without upping the amount of button inputs required.

Image

Eschewing the life bars from most traditional fighting games, Smash Bros. instead opts to go with its own unique health system. Or rather, it chooses to go with no health system at all. The only way to kill your opponents in Smash is to knock them off the stage using your attacks. Attacks themselves don't actually kill people, but they do damage and have a certain amount of knockback. How far away fighters get knocked from attacks depends on how much damage they have sustained, which is represented by a percentage. Despite damage being listed as a percentage, it can far exceed 100%. The idea is to start things off using a bunch of fast attacks to pile on the damage, and then finish the opponent with a smash attack. This may all seem a little weird at first, but the combat flows surprisingly well, as you're still primarily focusing on attacking your opponent as much as possible. The main benefit to this system is that singular attacks are less punishing, since you're not restricted to a life bar and can get hit as many times as you want, provided you manage to stay on the stage. That allows battles to last longer and be more satisfying. It's a highly original, ingenious system.

Image

Items are yet another thing that separate Super Smash Bros. from more conventional fighting games. Every so often, items will pop into the arena and whoever grabs one will get a significant advantage in battle. There are all kinds of crazy items, such as beam swords, ray guns, baseball bats, hammers, bombs, and much more. Easily the most entertaining items to use are the Poke Balls, which release a random Pokemon that will usually use a devastating attack on your foes. Having items around can make fights more casual and whimsical, but their existence also introduces an element of luck. If that's not your thing, that's okay, because there is something you can do about it. With enough patience, you can unlock the ability to change item frequency, switch certain ones off, or disable them entirely. Unfortunately, the process to unlock this feature takes a while, as you need to play exactly one hundred versus mode matches to get it. That's pretty inconvenient, but at least the option is there.

Image

Stages are more than just flat arenas in Super Smash Bros. Not only do stages look different, but they play different, too. Every stage has a different arrangement of platforms and landforms, in addition to hazards. For example, the Star Fox stage, Sector Z, has you fighting on top of the Great Fox spaceship in outer space while Arwing fighter ships occasionally fly by and shoot lasers at you. On the other hand, the Zelda stage places fighters on the rooftops of Hyrule Castle, where tornados randomly appear. Only a single unlockable stage exists, but it's arguably the most fun one, as it's done in a retro 8-bit style reminiscent of the original Super Mario Bros. and contains warp pipes that transport fighters around the environment. Due to the different layouts, each stage will either subtly or greatly alter potential battle strategies, sometimes even giving certain characters advantages or disadvantages. That prevents fights from becoming repetitive, because the different stages provide variety. There aren't very many stages, but they're all varied and unique.

Image

Technically, Super Smash Bros. does have a single player mode, but it's pretty basic. It's a fairly standard mode where you fight against a bunch of computer opponents in a specific order. There are a few gimmicks exclusive to the single player mode, though. For instance, you may find yourself fighting against a team of eighteen Yoshis, three at a time, or battling against Metal Mario. On top of that, there are bonus stages during the single player campaign that have you perform tasks unrelated to combat, like breaking targets, boarding platforms, and racing to the finish. At the end of the single player game, you'll go up against the final boss, Master Hand, who is just a giant hand. While the exclusive content makes this mode slightly interesting, it's still mostly lackluster. Outside of unlocking the extra characters and stages, you shouldn't bother with single player.

Image

Multiplayer is Smash's true calling. Using the N64's native four controller ports, up to four players can duke it out in a hand-to-hand battle in versus mode. You can also fight against computer controlled opponents, or a combination of both human and computer players. Fighters can be divided into teams or do free-for-all battles. You can also decide whether to do timed or stock matches, which slightly alter the basic rules of battles. In timed matches, fighters compete to see who can get the most kills within a specific time limit, kind of like the standard death match mode prevalent in many first-person shooters. Stock matches are a bit more traditional, where each fighter has a set stock of extra lives, and must deplete all opponents of stocks in order to be the last one standing. It's up to you how the carnage plays out. The engaging combat mechanics, multiple stages, different match types, and customizable item options make it so that multiplayer matches never get old. Super Smash Bros. is the ultimate local multiplayer game.

Image

When it comes to the fighting genre, just about everything Super Smash Bros. does is unique. This is the perfect fighting game for people who don't like fighting games, as it circumvents most of the barriers preventing people from jumping into the genre. No complex button inputs, no life bars, and no flat arenas. The four player action is also unparalleled. Plus, who could resist watching their favorite Nintendo characters duke it out in the ring? As fabulous as this game is, though, it pales in comparison to later games in the series. You can tell it's a fairly low budget release, as it doesn't contain much content. In a way, this is more like a tech demo than a fully featured game. There are too few playable characters, too few stages, and not enough modes. It's still enjoyable despite that, but you're honestly better off going with one of the future games.

Word Count: 1,804